Monday, December 03, 2012

Annals of sleazy marketing -- Network Solutions moves into second place behind Verizon

Last year, I registered the domain larrypress.net with Network Solutions (NS). I had no immediate use for the name, so I opted for automatic renewal and forgot about it. On September 28, 2012, I received an email from NS saying they would automatically renew the registration some time in the next 90 days. (I checked later -- the expiration date was January 12, 2013).

Some time later, I remembered the pending expiration, and renewed. My credit card company notifies me of online charges, and I received an email saying NS had charged $37.99. That struck me as mistakenly high, so I tried to stop the transaction using email.

I could not figure out a way to do that on their Web site, so I called and spoke to a customer representative. I told her that the price was too high, so I wanted to drop the registration. She said she really did not want to lose me as a customer and asked what prices I had gotten from other registrars. When I hedged the answer, she said she would only charge me $9.75. Sleazy.

Being busy, I said OK, but it turned out that she could not authorize the credit card adjustment and transferred me to another woman who said she would adjust the credit card charge. I said great, but that I no longer wanted to auto renew. She offered to cancel my auto renew option, but needed answers to my three security questions in order to do that.

Great, but, since the answer to two of my questions was the same (my first school and my sixth grade school), I would have to log in and change my security questions first.

I asked if I couldn't just log in and drop auto-renew by myself. It turns out that you cannot do that yourself -- you have to call them and have them do it for you.

I logged in, changed my security questions and she turned off auto renewal.

Total elapsed time on the phone -- 38 minutes.

This moves NS into second place in my race for King of Sleaze, but Verizon remains on top (http://bit.ly/RuoWhT).

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Update 6/4/2013

After the above experience, I wanted to move the domain to another registrar.  Hover.com pitches themselves as ethical and straight forward, so I went to their Web site to make the switch.

They informed me that the domain was "locked" -- an odd concept.  I surfed over to the Network Solutions Web site, where I learned that one cannot unlock a domain using their account manager -- you have to call them and speak to a representative.

So I called.  After a few menu choices, I was put on hold, but after 3 minutes and 36 seconds the connection hung up.

I called back, went through the menus and reached an operator who grilled me on security questions and account details, then asked why I was transferring the registration.  When I told her why, she offered to let me keep the domain for $9.95 per year.  I asked if that would be "forever," and she said "yes."  I told her that Hover charged $15 per year, and that for $5 per year, I would rather deal with an ethical, straightforward company and wanted to go ahead with the transfer anyway.

She allowed as how unlocking the domain would take at least 24 hours, which seemed goofy, but it turned out that the unlocking was done a minute later -- I guess they were hoping I would reconsider if I waited 24 hours to check.  What marketing genius invents these procedures?